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pbjhhunt Mar 7th, 2005 06:34 PM

advice for Ireland trip
my husband,myself and my son (18) are taking a trip to Ireland in April. I'm looking for some basic out of the country travel advice. We've never traveled out of the US and I know a lot will be different. We arrive on a Sunday morning at 7:30 - what should we expect when we arrive regarding customs etc.? (we're coming into Dublin airport). We will be renting a car- still working on that, I can't seem to find the type of quotes I've seen mentioned here but that may be because we're looking for a roomier size car- the 18 yr old is not small and 10 days in a little car would just be bad - we're also planning to mostly do B&B open vouchers. we have already booked a hotel room in Dublin for Sat & Sun of our trip as Dublin's the only thing the teenager has expressly made any input on and we think being right in Dublin would be better than a B&B outside of it. will the vouchers serve us well enough in April every where else? I've been trying to absorb everything I can reading here and everywhere else and am sure our itinerary will change multiple times from now until we finish our trip but I'm just not sure of everything to expect or what to plan for being out of our usual environment. I'm sure it will be the little things that will trip us up (i've already made note that washclothes should be brought with us) but I'm hoping all the wonderful input people here give will keep us from forgetting about anything too important. I've loved "lurking" here and reading such great stories and advice that everyone offers. Thanks for any you can give me.

12perfectdays Mar 7th, 2005 08:30 PM

Planning my first trip this year also. Have gotten some interesting tips from Rick Steve's website that seem specifically helpful to us "first timers"

you can also see some feedback about Ireland trips/food/B&B/sights there as well if you link below:

Car rental rates also seem better if you call rather than the web. So far, I have had best luck with Dan Dooley (800)331-9301. see posts for "cheapest car rental- Ireland" on this board.

I have also found two other sites that I really like as well

Good luck...would love to hear about your trip as mine is not until October, if you get a chance let us all know how eveything was!

marsig Mar 7th, 2005 09:30 PM

pbjhhunt - if this is your first time out of the US... do you have experience driving on`the other side'? Also, when I went to Britain, I made sure that our car had an automatic transmission. Most are not, you have to make special request. Also, a larger car can sometimes be a problem on their narrow roads. Again, we ended up with a roomier `American type' car & it was a tight fit on a few occasions. Hope this helps.

pbjhhunt Mar 8th, 2005 01:29 AM

I will check out the ricksteves site - I'll take all the tips I can get. I did see the "cheapest car rental" post and found the dan dooley name there. I will try calling - just haven't had a chance. as for driving "on the other side" - no neither my husband or I have done that before - we're a little nervous about it-especially when I read someones account of a round about and was actually able to visualize a rotary (which we're used to in MA) going in the opposite direction - that was a scary thought. but we'll take it slow. We're planning to get an automatic-even though we're both able to drive a manual I think that may be too much at once for us. I know it may be a bit of a tight fit sometimes, and it's not as though we're trying for something huge. I just can't see my son and husband stuffed into a compact car for 10 days - I think there would be mutiny in the ranks before the end of the trip. thanks for the responses.

Retired_teacher Mar 8th, 2005 03:05 AM

If you still haven't firmed up your car rental, may I make a suggestion.... Consider booking a seven day rental as a weekly rate will be much cheaper than a ten day one. You should be able to get around in Dublin without a car and you will not have to deal with learning to drive on 'the other side' in the city. If you take a city bus in Dublin, try to sit up front behind the driver so that you are able to observe how to navigate the turn lanes and circles. You will find that it's your natural tendency to hug the left shoulder as a 'new driver'. Be sure to check your vehicle for prior damage to that side of the car before leaving the rental facility. Driving a full sized vehicle will be challenging in some areas. As all of the tour buses must travel in the same direction around the Ring of Kerry, I'd suggest researching that and planning your itinerary so that you are not forced to meet those large vehicles head on. (I'm sorry to say that I've forgoten that detail since my visit in March of 2003.) You might also consider booking your reservations in advance out on the Dingle Penninsula and/or the Ring of Kerry. Nightfall still comes early in the spring and you would not want to find yourself being forced to drive a long distance in the dark/fog searching for a room in those areas.

Enjoy your trip, you're going to love Ireland!

chip Mar 8th, 2005 04:39 AM

We got the best deal from Sixt and didn't have any problems.

Do not keep your rental car while in Dublin...we dropped ours off at the end of our trip which ended in Dublin and it was nice to have that out of the way and just taxi to the airport.

Watch out when crossing the have to look in the opposite Dublin the corners are actually posted to help you.

Can't stress enough to try for smallest car you think you can handle...and pull in the side mirrors. We did get a small compact, and we are not small people, at it really wasn't bad. When you get out of your car and there are pieces of bushes from the side of the road in your know you are close.

That said...we didn't have any promblems and didn't have any damage to the car. Just take your time and don't drive too far the first day.

The Heritage Card really saved us a lot of money.

New pubs it is OK to join a table with open seat...they will join you! A great way to get to know the people of Ireland.

nankar Mar 8th, 2005 05:55 AM

I would not drive in Dublin and it isn't necessary. Driving outside of Dublin is not a problem except for the lack of signage in places. I strongly advise that you use one of the mapping sites to input the towns to which you will be driving and print out the point-by-point directions. They were a lifesaver for us!

judya Mar 8th, 2005 06:13 AM

It took my husband about a day getting use to driving on the other side of the road. We try not to have a car in the big city that we fly into or out. Get the smallest car you can and do get an automatic. We have alot of experience with cars in Europe.

NEDSIRELAND Mar 8th, 2005 06:54 AM

I haven't used B&B Vouchers because many B&B Owner/Operators don't care for them or to have to accept them. They also don't like Credit Cards although I don't know what percent Irish banks charge ...

I have seen many minivans in Iteland: te best when I was hitch-hiking N-59 in north Mayo and was picked up by two couples from Conroe, TX (north of Houston - where the Woodlands G.C. is) in a Mercedes Van. I guided them to Carne Golf Links near Belmullet. So there are Automatic Vans available: my guess would be that they are at a premium price.

My sisters and cousins rented an automatic transmission Volvo. I'm sure they also paid top dollar (Euro). But they had plenty of room and didn't have to floor shift with the left hand

wojazz3 Mar 8th, 2005 08:59 AM

There are a lot of things to be aware of on a first trip and you'll get some good advice here.

First thing is that you will be very tired when you arrive and will have had about 3 hours maximum of not particularly restful sleep. Do not try to drive much on this first day. You might consider stayin in Dublin the first night and then the last two. People deal with jet lag differently. I try to make sure I stay awake all day the first day, never eat a terribly heavy meal and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Waking up the next morning is usually the only problem, but from there, I'm in pretty good shape.

Getting through customs is pretty painless though sometimes the lines can be long, it usually isn't bad in Dublin. Your actual time with the customs officer will be less than a minute. You will tell the person that are visiting for non-business reasons, make some basic small talk and you will be on your way.

Try Enterprise for car rental. I saw some good prices there a few weeks ago. They don't have many locations around Ireland, but they do have Dublin so that would work out for you. Three people in a compact car with luggage won't work, so you will need something larger. Calling and asking for a suggestion isn't a bad thing and the cost of international calling is not high anymore.

If you purchased B&B vouchers through a package, the deal might be OK. Otherwise, purchasing them separately is a complete waste. They cost you more and they cost the owner more. Buying them through a travel agent is usually not a good deal. Get the Town and Country book from the Irish Tourism office and use it to select your B&Bs. You can also try things like Michele Erdwig's book ( which has personal recommendations. They are very good, though sometimes a buit more pricey. Her book is quite good for a lot of things.

Driving on the left will be a bit challenging and nerve wracking for the first day, but you will adapt. One person needs to be the navigator (not 2). The person in the back seat needs to enjoy the scenery. An automatic transmission will help, but it can almost double the cost of the rental in some cases.

Most B&Bs don't provide wash cloths if you need one, bring one. Many only provide liquid soap and ocassionally no soap at all. If you like bar soap, pick some up when you get there at a market.

Travel is slow on Irish roads for two reasons. Motorways are the exception not the rule and most of the roads go right through the center of towns. Figure that your AVERAGE speed will be somewhere in the 35MPH range.

Well, this is a start. Feel free to ask more questions. This is just off the top of my head.


pbjhhunt Mar 9th, 2005 02:44 PM

I see I'm getting lots of great advice and things to think about - didn't get to see these last night as a tree took out all our lines and I spent the day getting everything hooked back up - some days I wish I was planning a warm weather trip - for right now.

I really wish we could drop the car as soon as we get to Dublin but due to when we're planning to be in Dublin we'll still need it Mon-Tues. I'm sure we will just park it and not use it but somethings just work out that way.

The mention of being sure there's only one navigator leads me to believe I'll be in the back seat most of the time - or else we'll probably butt heads on it. I know we'll have to be really careful with a larger car but I just think we'd all be miserable with out some space. My husband will probably do most of the driving and he's pretty adaptable-even thought a manual would be fine but I'd prefer not to take the chance.

As to the suggestion regarding the first day I will definitely keep jet lag in mind. We don't plan to do too much but we do plan a bit of driving - I believe at this point to Kilkenny. But we plan to be taking our time (as it sounds like we'd be doing anyways)All of us believe camping to be the best vacation-because it's relaxing so although there's alot we want to see I'm sure alot will be passed just to keep things relaxing and enjoyable.

We're still up in the air regarding the B&B vouchers. I'm thinking of getting them through and they do use the Town & Country Association. I think I need to feel that it's basically all set $-wise (the bookkeeper in me) although I understand what has been said regarding maybe paying more than we need to-the uncertainty of cost would probably make me too crazy-but as I said it's not definite yet. The car maybe all set through Dan Dooley I just have to check one more thing tomorrow. Thanks for all input and I'm sure I'll have more questions.

allisonm Mar 9th, 2005 04:45 PM

pbj, I think you can do fine without the vouchers. We spent 9 nights in Ireland in October, and while I confess to having made the reservations in advance, we didn't spend over 35E pps at any B&B. (We are pretty budget minded so we can go back often.) Do you have the Town & County book? The Irish Tourist Board would never get it to you in time, but you can pick one up for a small price at all the tourist offices in Ireland. We usually go off-season and only used the vouchers for one trip. We stayed in a place in Letterkenny that accepted the vouchers and where we might not have stayed otherwise because their pricing was on the high side. There were a couple of places where I would have liked to stay but alas, no vouchers accepted. The vouchers are not a good deal for the B&B owner because they get a set price and it takes quite some time for them to be reimbursed. We have found that most B&Bs prefer cash, and we are happy to pay that way.

The typical B&B will run around 35E pps, a bit more if you are looking for a single room for your son. There are some more luxurious B&Bs that are highly recommended that run higher. For instance, in Dingle, the Lighthouse, a lovely B&B up on the hill runs from 30 to 37E, while Heatons is pricier at 52E for a standard room, up to 79 for a junior suite.

I second Bill's suggestion of Michele Erdvig's book, which we have found very useful. Some of her recommendations are on the high end, but we have stayed in some of her mid-range suggestions and have not been disappointed.

Whatever you decide, have a great first trip!

Itallian_Chauffer Mar 9th, 2005 04:48 PM

Go to request a full size (Nissan Primera, or Renault Megane). If you use a MasterCard for the CDW, I got a quote of 261 Euro for 11 days in June (Manual shift, though).

I've rented the Primera before, April of '03. It's a nice, Camry sized car with AC(?) and quite roomy for three adult sized U.S. people.

althom1122 Mar 9th, 2005 04:58 PM

Get as small a car as you think the men can tolerate. I would have been WAY more uncomfortable in a large car on those teeny narrow roads. Be especially careful of the left mirror - it's hard to judge where the left side of the car is and we heard numerous stories of people whacking the mirror against a hedge, a wall, or whatever.
We went the B&B voucher route and had no trouble - we just called a couple nights in advance and were always able to find a spot (we went in June).
We flew into Shannon, so I can't address Dublin specifically - but getting through European customs in general is quite easy. Will be eager to see your itinerary!

pbjhhunt Mar 10th, 2005 02:52 PM

the car thing is done-we ended up at Dan Dooley - the written quote I have says it includes all-excess liability, airport fees and an extra driver-704.USD. They say it's a class G and mention a renault laguna - I have a feeling it probably isn't as big as we imagine but as has been mentioned that could be a good thing. it's done.

as to the itinerary, i'm working on it but confess to getting more confused the more i read, adding and subtracting places. i would like input on the ring of kerry. i figured we'd definitely do that but read some things last night that sound like it may not be the best use of our limited time. I had been told that we should take a tour bus for it to allow all of us to see it. any input appreciated.

also, my husband has it stuck in his head that he'd love to spend the night at a castle - but I think it may not be what he expects. what i've seen so far seem like elegant hotels, not a "castle" so to speak - again any input appreciated.

wojazz3 Mar 10th, 2005 03:19 PM

As far as the RoK is concerned, consider staying in Kenmare. The drive between Killarney and Kenmare is beautiful and Kenmare is a great little town on the Kenmare "River" - really more of a bay at that point. You could see Killarney National park and maybe do the Gap of Dunloe tour (weather permitting) which is really quite nice. The last part involves a boat ride through the Lakes of Killarney which is a trip you won't soon forget.

Two suggestions for castle stays that are less like elegant hotels. Carrigeen Castle is actually an old jail in the town of Cahir which has a beautiful castle of it's own. The owner is a bit fussy, but it really is an interesting building and worth a stay. (

Cregg Castle is just north of Galway ( It looks like more of a manor house, but they say it was fortified. The owners are musicians (seems like I've typed these same words 100 times) and they play traditional Irish concerts in the great room on most evenings. It's a great place. Sometimes others sit in. My wife and I have done that. If you go, tell them that Bill and Felicity will see them in May!!

Again, go without vouchers. I have never heard an experienced traveler say they wouldn't travel without them. You can find rooms from E28-35pp.

Keep planning.


pbjhhunt Mar 12th, 2005 09:37 AM

well we've got a very tentative itinerary plan for most of the trip - probably way too ambitious but I'd like to get some feedback on whether or not it's possible, I'm only putting in the bare bones, not every site we plan to see - as I said, very tentative:

4/17 - arrive dublin 7:30am to Kilkenny for 1st night
4/18 - to cashel then blarney to Kilarney to stay 2nd night
4/19 - to dingle for day then (and this is what I'm wondering) long drive to doolin to stay 3rd night
4/20 - cliffs of mohr, the burren, aran islands - stay doolin again 4th night
4/21 - to Galway - stay Galway 5th night
4/22 - to Castlerea, Co. Roscommon (family)stay 6th night
4/23 - (this is definite)to dublin - have hotel booked 7th & 8th night
4/25 - possibly Belfast - stay
4/26 - noon flight out of dublin

ok - what's good-bad-or simply not do-able. thanks in advance!

pbjhhunt Mar 12th, 2005 10:08 AM

i just realized that i never mentioned how important music everywhere is for this trip - both my husband and son are huge music people and are interested in all types so are really looking forward to the pubs - suggestions for music in the areas we're looking to stay in are greatly appreciated. my son is already dreading spending 10 days separated from his guitars.

hailbuzzy Mar 12th, 2005 11:34 AM

My husband's favorite pub in the whole wide world is John Benny Moriarty's in Dingle. John Benny himself sits in for jam sessions with his friends and plays some wonderful Irish music. We absolutely loved it and wished we had more nights to share with them! :) While we were there, they posted the music schedule in the pub window. The pub grub there isn't bad either.

Looking at your itinerary, we've been to Dingle, Cashel, Killarney, Moher & the Burren. Killarney was our favorite bec we're really into nature and the national park there is simply incredible. You can spend an entire day just hiking and exploring! The Burren was our least favorite but still interesting to see the contrast in landscape to the rest of Ireland.

You're going to have a blast!

wassy Mar 12th, 2005 02:12 PM

Hello. I am going on a cruise out of Denmark in August and was planning a pre cruise stop over in Ireland. I will be using Americam Advantage miles.(I will be flying from my home city of Las Vegas) Is three days enough time to get the essence of Ireland? I can probably add an extra day if needed, but have to watch my budget. Can I see much of the countryside by tour bus or is it advisable to rent a car for a few days? I have driven on the other side of the road and this doesn't worry me (too much) I would appreciate destination advise. I would also be interested in quaint accomodation, including B$Bs if advisable.

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